HARTFORD, Conn. – Chris Tallman considers himself a pretty good “mudder” on the golf course and certainly demonstrated that trait in the Connecticut PGA Professional Championship at Tumble Brook Country Club in Bloomfield, Conn.
Tallman hit 13 of 18 greens in regulation in the final round in soggy conditions that allowed players to lift, clean and place in the fairway after six inches of rain fell on Tumble Brook CC in the week before the tournamen, including a half-inch the night before the final round. It was so wet that players couldn’t drive carts into the fairway, but the conditions only played into the strength of Tallman, one of the longest hitters in the Connecticut Section PGA.
“I don’t mind playing when it’s wet,” said Tallman, who won his first individual Section title with a 36-hole total of 7-under-par 137, seven better than runner-up Mike Martin. “I was pretty focused and didn’t let it get to me. The greens were really saturated, but the hardest thing for me is that I like to strike down on the ball so the divots were flying everywhere. But I just played consistent and was patient. I felt very comfortable over the ball and hitting it long was a big advantage.”
Tallman, 31, of Cold Spring Country Club in Belchertown, Mass., generally outdrove playing partners Martin and Bill Downes, who tied for fourth at 147, by 20-30 yards while hitting 12 of 18 fairways on the way to the $4,000 first prize. He made five birdies and one bogey at No. 12, the only hole that he bogeyed each round, in a closing 68 that beat the rest of the field by three strokes.
“I couldn’t catch him,” said Martin, of Tashua Knolls Golf Course in Trumbull, who closed with 74 and won $2,750. “He looked really good. He was lights out.”
Martin, who won the Section PGA Senior Championship in August to qualify for the national championship at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla., was delighted to finish second.
“I just tried to hit greens and not do anything stupid,” said Martin, who closed with 16 pars and two bogeys. “I hit a few loose shots at the end, but I kept playing smart and didn’t do anything reckless.”
Tallman was virtually unbeatable while all but clinching his first Section Player of the Year title. He earned 100 OMEGA points in the Player of the Year race and a spot in the 2019 PGA of America Professional Championship on April 28-May 1 at Belfair Golf Club in Bluffton, S.C. Martin, Rick Fleury (Elmcrest CC-East Longmeadow, Mass.), who finished third at 146, also clinched spots in the national tournament. Downes (GreatHorse CC-Hampden, Mass.) birdied the second playoff to beat Fran Marrello (Canaan CC) and Dave Dell (Springfield CC) and earn the first alternate spot and will advance to the finals if Tallman is Player of the Year.
Tallman improved his Player of the Year point total to 270.17, while 80 points vaulted Martin into second at 185.00. Fleury also earned a spot in the national tournament, and Tallman clinches the Player of Year title if he wins one match in the season-ending Match Play Championships Oct. 16-18 at Fox Hopyard GC in East Haddam. Tallman also can win if Martin doesn’t win the Match Play Championship.
“Player of the Year was a goal of mine this year,” Tallman said. “The past couple of years, I’ve ‘been there’ as far as a lot of top-5s and top-10s coming together. But I spent last winter at PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, played five tournaments and finished sixth once. There were some Web.com Tour players there, so it was really good competition and gave me a big advantage coming into this year. It was really good preparation for the season.”
Good preparation indeed with a handful of top-10 finishes, capped by his first individual title Tuesday.
Tallman began the day with a one-stroke lead over Martin but tripled his advantage when he made an 18-foot birdie putt at No. 3 while Martin bogeyed. The lead reached four strokes when Martin hit a 5-iron to 15 feet and made birdie 2 at No. 4. A bogey at the ninth hole dropped Martin five strokes back and into a tie with Downes.
Martin got within four as Tallman missed a 25-foot par putt at No. 12, but Tallman ended any doubt about the outcome when he birdied the next three holes. He hit a wedge to 4 feet at the 13th, chipped to 2 feet for a tap-in at the dangerous par-5 14th and capped the run with a 25-foot birdie putt at the 15th. Deft chips to 2 and 4 feet salvaged pars at Nos. 16 and 17 and a routine par 5 at the 18th hole finished off his personally history victory.
“I didn’t know where I stood all day, but it didn’t change my strategy,” Tallman said. “I hit the driver well, my irons were on point and I made a few more putts than I did Monday (in shooting 69). I was really happy with the way I played.”
He certainly deserved to be.